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CareBot

CareBot is an assistive technology for caretakers of elderly people with cognitive disorders.

Photo of Corlynne O'Sullivan
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it better support family caregivers as they care for a loved one with dementia?

CareBot is aimed at family caregivers and helps them by delivering suitable videos and information on care-taking in a conversational manner as well as on demand. CareBot also helps negate feelings of isolation by offering companionship, and emotional support, available at any time, anywhere, as it's important to maintain the caretakers' wellbeing for them to take care of their loved ones.

1. Title

CareBot is an assistive technology for caretakers of elderly people with cognitive disorders. 


2. Stakeholders

Below are the key stakeholders: 

  • Caregivers, both professional and loved ones who are faced with the often isolating complex task of caring for those with cognitive disabilities.
  • Healthcare Providers, all organisations providing healthcare services, especially mobile healthcare services for the domestic area of elderly.
  • Software providers, companies that provide applications (e.g. as app stores). In this case companies such as Apple and Google are stakeholders. Although there are many assistive technologies, none are aimed specifically at caregivers, which will open up a new market with new customers.
  • Medical Institutions / Hospitals, i.e. all organisations providing medical services or working in medical research.
  • Non-university Research Organisations, i.e. research institutions that do not belong to universities and are independent bodies, an example of this is the Spanish “Fundación Instituto Gerontológico Matia”, who have strong activity in the field of ICT for independent living. 
  • Safety, i.e. private organisations that deal with devices or services to increase and maintain the sense of security, mostly within the domestic area of elderly people, e.g. by the use of alarm systems.
  • Government and local authorities, i.e. organizations that are officially responsible for all the public services and facilities in a particular area, e.g. local training opportunities. This could also include community, family and friends who are involved in initiatives with helping senior citizens. 


3. Context

Technological advances and societal changes in recent years have contributed to a shift in traditional care models and in the relationship between patients and their doctors/carers, with (in general) an increase in the patient-carer physical distance and corresponding changes in the modes of access to relevant care information by all groups. With the ageing population increasing across its member states, the European Union has undertaken a number of research initiatives around safeguarding technologies to assist the elderly, yet there has been little focus on how to implement technologies to help those caring for the elderly and it is for this reason that I have developed a concept for a caregiving advice and support bot. Based on existing assistive technology bots, for example Woebot: a chatbot mental health coach, we can use the same technology to address issues that caretakers face.

Spouse caregivers reporting low marital cohesion and satisfaction endorsed significantly more depressive symptoms. These findings supported the model's central premise that relational losses are discretely related to the mental health of spouse caregivers. These spouses are often under-skilled to deal with the complexities of caring for a person with a cognitive disorder such as dementia. To further back this statement, dementia caregivers often report feeling burdened by care-taking responsibilities. Caregiver burden is correlated with caregiver depression, but the interrelationship between burden and depression requires further investigation. This study hypothesised that persisting elevated burden results in subsequent depressive symptoms. Participants were 33 dementia caregivers divided into two groups based on their Zarit Burden Interview score. The outcome variable was the total score on the Geriatric Depression Scale after 12 months. Caregivers who had persisting high burden showed significantly worse depression scores after 12 months compared to those caregivers without persisting high burden. Regression analysis controlling for baseline depression also demonstrated burden as a significant predictor of subsequent depression. This data suggests that longitudinal burden may be predictive of higher depressive symptoms; therefore, reducing burden could decrease depressive symptoms in dementia caregivers. I believe that there is a critical needs for an assessment process that would serve to identify key elements known to influence the success use of assistive technology and other supports for caregivers for people with dementia, who are already in a risk category for mental illnesses and isolation in the case of it being a spouse.


4. Problem Identification

The greying of the world population poses formidable socio-economic challenges to the provision of acute and long-term health care. Approximately 28 million persons worldwide suffer from dementia and account for 156 billion dollars in direct care costs annually. About 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.

Caregivers often face changing and isolating work, that can both take a negative effect on them and their patients, sometimes this labor is unpaid in the case of a loved one, the caregiver is often under-appreciated and never received formal training to deal with the difficult scope of the this line of work. In patients with dementia, care takers are expected to manage complex behaviours with little additional help, it is for these reasons I am proposing to create an AI application that can help encourage and teach those faced with the difficult change of care-taking. 

In the case of Woebot the application has already had conversations with more users than a typical therapist will in an entire career. While these conversations are more basic, as it learns from these interactions, it will only get better. Chatbots represent a grand challenge for AI and NLP (natural language processing) but since this is a recent field and has already developed fast, therefore in the near future we will see the development of more helpful and relatable human-like bots. 


5. Objectives

  • Inform and educate caretakers, CareBot will teach deliver suitable videos on care-taking, this will help improve how a caretaker deals with issues such as the in the case of complex behaviours that comes with caring for person with cognitive difficulties.
  • Advocate the caretakers appreciation through daily positive reinforcement, CareBot could thank the caretaker, send a motivational video after checking in with them at the end of the day.
  • Enforce assistive technology in the medical field, although there has been a revolution of helpful technologies for healthcare, the medical field is still slow to adopt new technologies, which calls for rethinking of how we implement various health tech solutions in the medical field. Although a range of assistive technologies to compensate for physical and cognitive impairments have emerged in recent decades, the scientific literature has remained largely confined to the engineering and computer science domains with few exceptions.
  • Improve research and implement design for all, physical and rehabilitation medicine literature to date has primarily addressed the use of assistive devices for physical disability, typically in younger adults, and not the cognitive, functional, and behavioural sequelae of dementia in particular. Thus, the major goal will be to systematically review for clinicians and clinical researchers alike the current availability, capabilities, and developmental stage of technologies that with continued research may find applications in dementia care.
  • Negate feelings of isolation by offering CareBot’s companionship, since care-taking can be a sensitive/difficult topic the bot offers non-judgemental help and companionship that is back with professional advice. 



6. Audience

Approximately 28 million persons worldwide suffer from dementia and account for 156 billion dollars in direct care costs annually. In the United States alone, the population aged 65 and older will double in size to 72 million within the next 25 years, with the segment over age 85 years growing at the fastest rate. If current population trends continue, an estimated 13 million Americans will have the disease by 2050. Meanwhile facing the greying of many countries and heavy demand of age health care resources, the in European Parliament on January 2009 call for dementia to be made an EU health priority and urge Member States to develop dedicated national plans and strategies (only seven EU countries currently have national strategies in place). These strategies should address the social and health consequences, as well as services and support for sufferers and their families. 

In terms of our target audiences gender, statistics from Caregiving and AARP show that males may be sharing in caregiving tasks more than in the past, but females still shoulder the major burden of care. For example, while some studies show a relatively equitable distribution of caregiving between males and females, female caregivers spend more time providing care than men. Having said this, among spousal caregivers aged 75+, both sexes provide equal amounts of care. When we speak of health-care we often think of state run organisations like hospitals and caretaker homes, but this is an unrealistic image of care for the elderly, as the vast majority of caregivers (85%) care for a relative or other loved one.

42%

care for a parent (31% for a mother, 11% for a father)

15%

care for a friend, neighbor or another non-relative

14 %

care for a child

7%

care for a parent-in-law

7%

care for a grandparent or grandparent-in-law.


Caregivers with a higher education level are more likely to say they advocate for their loved one with care providers, government agencies, or schools. In particular, 58% of college graduates say they advocate for their loved one, whereas only 46% of those with less education do.


7. Competitive Advantage

In developing this application there are some key factors to consider.

  1. Not all caretakers are young, seniors may find interacting with a application difficult. Many caregivers of older adults are themselves growing older. The average caregiver of a recipient 65 years of age or older is 63 years old. Of these caregivers, one third report being in fair to poor health. CareBot will ensure that accessible UI/UX practices are enforced with design for all in mind.
  2. CareBot will need a variety of expertise in its development to include medical advisors such as psychologists, doctors and other professional caregivers.
  3. Woebot application offers help, support, and companionship so in a way it is a competitor, however CareBot is aimed at a more niche market of caretakers.
  4. There has been little research into how assistive technologies can help those taking care of others, by using this bot I hope to provide careers of those with cognitive disorders the skill set and support needed to improve their lives and lessen incidences of depression amongst caretakers. 
  5. With the development of new technologies, I hope that what once were more isolating situations can now be dealt with in a new way - providing people with the support that would otherwise be more difficult to obtain, directly improving the lives of caretakers.
  6. CareBot will replace the need to hunt down reliable sources information on caregiving, which can be a difficult task. It will provide a repository of informative videos, text and media as well as tailored AI-driven responses to users’ questions. These can be accessed whenever needs be. The assistive media is also sent to the user in daily conversations with the bot.


What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

A qualitative analysis could be carried out to survey caretakers if they would use a bot like this to help their daily tasks and ask what features they would expect. Alternative, a prototype could be developed and users could be interviewed about their usage, as well as automatic usage statistics being collected.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

OpenIDEO community could help bring this idea from a design brief into a working prototype stage with the help of: - AI/ML/NLP experts and developers - UX/UI Designers - Professional caretakers or specialists in the area

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm a masters student in Interaction Design, previously worked with NLP, data analysis, digital marketing and freelance graphic design.

1 comment

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Photo of Joy Johnston
Team

This sounds like an intriguing concept. I like the idea of an easy-to-access repository of information for caregivers. Searching for medical information can be daunting and overwhelming.